Two Class Action Lawsuit Allege Starbucks is Shorting its Customers

06/09/2016 | Class Actions/Mass Torts

Famed coffee giant Starbucks is in hot water. Customers believe they have been deceived about how much coffee they are actually buying and are taking legal action. Two separate class-action lawsuits allege Starbucks is misrepresenting two of their celebrated beverages – the latte and the iced coffee.

The first suit, filed in the U.S. district court of Northern California, claims that Starbucks intentionally sells customers lattes with 25% less liquid than advertised. The Plaintiffs allege Starbucks is liable for fraud and is in breach of both implied and express warranties. The Complaint alleges Starbucks formulated their latte recipe in order to save money on the product’s most expensive ingredient: milk.  The Plaintiffs set forth that the "fill to" lines etched on the pitchers to guide baristas in making lattes produce drinks that don’t meet the menu sizes of tall (12 oz.), grande (16 oz.) and venti (20 oz.). Instead of full drinks, customers are left with a quarter inch of milk foam... “By under filling its lattes, thereby shortchanging its customers,” the Plaintiffs argue “Starbucks has saved countless millions of dollars in the cost of goods sold and was unjustly enriched by taking payment for more product than it delivers."

The second suit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Chicago, makes a similar claim that the company puts too much ice in its iced coffee beverage. This Complaint details that a customer who orders a venti iced coffee (cold ventis are 24 oz.) will receive approximately 14 oz., or “just over half the advertised amount, and just over half the amount for which they are paying.” The Plaintiffs allege Starbucks is “deceiving” its customers, and the suit seeks over $5 million in damages. There is some debate as to whether an ice cube should be considered a solid or liquid for purposes of evaluating the cup’s contents. According to Starbucks, their customers “expect” ice in their iced coffee as it is an “essential part” of the beverage.

A similar suit claiming misrepresentation by Subway because the company’s “footlong” was only 11 inches was recently settled, and the company has changed its policies so that every “footlong” sandwich is a full 12 inches. It remains to be seen what, if any effect these Starbucks lawsuits will have. The classes are open to every customer who has purchased a latte or ice coffee in the past ten years.  It’s a “latte” people.